It’s the world concert tour when Dylan first went electric. It’s when The Band first backed him. Video footage of that tour spawned bootlegs that got passed around for decades. During his performance at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, Dylan answered a heckling fan by telling his band to “Play it [expletive] loud!” Ten countries on three continents got to hear him play songs like “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “It Ain’t Me, Babe” for the first time.
Since that world tour, Dylan has been lionized around the world, and has spawned a host of Bob Dylan tribute bands, wannabes, lookalikes, and fellow folk musicians of social change. Some of them take their idol worship so seriously that they cut their hair the same way or celebrate his birthday with a tribute concert every year. From Russia to South Africa, India to Japan, we pull out our favorite “Bob Dylans” from around the world.
1. Argentinian pop-folk composer Leon Gieco (1951-present)
Gieco, who started playing guitar at the age of eight, is known for mixing Argentine rock with folk styles, and for Dylan-like social and political commentary. Gieco was often targeted by the Argentine government and was forced to flee his country before returning as a star years later. Listen as crowds sing along with Gieco to “En el País de la Libertad” (In the Country of Liberty):
2. Russian folk singer Vladimir Vysotsky (1938-1980)
Vysotsky, known as the “Russian bard,” was a gritty folk singer and actor who rose to prominence in the 1960s. He escaped Soviet censors by writing often about the lives of ordinary people and making social and political commentary by inserting humorous street jargon into his lyrics. Like Dylan, he was known for sometimes keeping his guitar out of tune, for bringing social change with his songs, and for his drug use, although Vysotsky’s was so bad it killed him. Listen to Vysotsky play “The Ballad of Love”:
3. Indian guitarist and singer Lou Majaw (1947-present)
Thirty-nine years ago today, Lou Majaw first organized a “Dylan’s birthday concert” in Shillong in the northeastern part of India, where artists came out of the jungle to celebrate. Since then, Majaw has organized the event every year, and though it’s become an internationally known obeisance, Majaw has never met Dylan. Watch Majaw sing his version of “Mr. Tambourine Man”:
4. South African folk musician Vusi Mahlasela (1965-present)
Mahlasela has written most often about the anti-apartheid movement and the struggle for freedom, working to bring social change in South Africa. In recent years, Mahlasela has increasingly performed in the U.S. including on Dave Matthews Band’s song “Everyday” and at the TED conference, singing his song “Woza”:
5. Japanese singer-songwriter Yuichi Ohata (1975-present)
Ohata, who has five pop albums, resembles young photos of Dylan with his dark, messy hair and starved look. Throughout his five pop albums, Ohata often pays homage to Dylan and other folk artists. Listen to this ballad written by Ohata, which he plays wearing a very Dylan-like hat:
Listen to Ohata’s song “Suna Arashi” here.
If you don’t own a bootleg from Dylan’s 1966 world tour, listen to him sing the incredible “Ballad of a Thin Man” live at Free Hall in Manchester here:
From the Washington Post archives:
This post has been updated.